Bogota is a fascinating mix of old and new, and with it being of the largest cities in Latin America, you’ll always be able to find something exciting to do. From graffiti to colonial Spanish architecture to the towering Andes, the landscape of the city is enough to make Bogota unique on its own. To read more about Bogota, click here.
Despite being Colombia’s largest city and capital, Bogota often goes less recognized than more popular cities such as Medellin and Cartagena. It’s a bustling city with heavy road traffic and millions of people, which may seem unappealing to some but the vastness of Bogota makes it capable of providing a wide variety of experiences. And even if city life isn’t your style, Bogota offers an easy entryway into outdoor adventures from rafting to hiking in nearby national parks.
Before the Spanish came in and conquered the region that is now Colombia, the land was inhabited by the indigenous Muisca. This civilization is often forgotten in comparison to the Aztecs, Mayas, and Incas. However, they are still known for their incredible gold work and for being the origin civilization of the legend of the lost golden city of El Dorado.
When first conquered by Gonzalo Jiménez de Quesada, the area was given the name Santa Fé de Bacatá. The name eventually shifted to Bogotá when it became the capital of the New Kingdom of Granada, part of the Viceroyalty of Peru. The city was one of Spain’s powerhouses in South America until it was eventually liberated by Simón Bolívar.
After this liberation, Bogotá became the capital of all of Gran Colombia, which at the time encompassed parts of modern-day Colombia, Panama, Venezuela, and Ecuador. As this republic dissolved over time, Bogotá remained the capital of New Granada, which over time became the Republic of Colombia.
Over the next century or so, the city went from a slow growth with constant efforts of preservation to a rapid expansion with a new wave of rural Colombians flocking to the city for better opportunities. Then on April 9, 1948, Bogota was rocked by the murder of Jorge Eliécer Gaitán. Gaitán was a liberal politician with massive popularity, and was on track to win the presidency.
The murder set off merciless riots throughout the day and into the night. By the next day 3,000 had died and a large portion of the city had been burned to the ground. This event that kicked off the “La Violencia” period in Colombia is now known as Bogotazo. This huge destruction also led to a more modern reconstruction of the city that is still seen in Bogota today.
There are two main areas of Bogota where people tend to find accommodations: La Candelaria and Chapinero. La Candelaria is more downtown and home to more of the attractions to see in the city. However, while during the day it’s perfectly safe it’s considered to be more dangerous at night, which makes people more wary of staying there. It isn’t so unsafe that it would be a horrible option, it’s just a factor to consider in your hunt for accommodations.
If you’re still looking to stay in La Candelaria, Masaya is a great cheap hostel option. The vibrant building has simple but nice rooms, and common areas include a nice kitchen and even game tables from pool to ping-pong to chess. For a middle-of-the-road option, Regina Living Candelaria is more upscale. But if you’re looking for 5-star pampering, book your stay the elegant Hotel de la Ópera.
The downside to staying in Chapinero is that it is more difficult to find a cheap place to stay. However, you can find a 4-star hotel option at a bargain price with Hotel Estelar Suites Jones.
While Bogota is temperate year-round, it does experience a significant rainy season from April to July. It is better to travel in the drier months of the year from December to March, even though you still may want to keep an umbrella handy then. Also, it is quite humid in Bogota so be prepared for that.
Despite it being considered better to travel in the drier months, peak tourism season actually falls in July and August as people flock to the city for Carnival. If you’re looking to join in on the celebration, that will make the decision of when to travel for you. But if you’re looking to avoid those crowds, then consider looking towards December through March.
Traveling through Colombia you’re bound to find plenty of meat and fresh fruit, and Bogota is no exception to this. You can find some of Colombia’s best ajiaco, a creamy chicken soup loaded with different potatoes, in Bogota as this popular dish is actually native to this region. Lechona is a traditional roast pork dish in Colombia, and while it isn’t native to Bogota, the city tends to take a different twist on it. Instead of solely stuffing spices and chickpeas into the meat, Bogota adds in rice as well.
For a great, cheap ajiaco check out La Puerta Falsa and for some cheap but savory empanadas head for Los Troncos. For more South American cuisine at a higher price point, Capital Cocina y Cafe has incredible food and service. And if you want to go somewhere for fine dining, you can go to restaurant of one of Colombia’s famous chefs, Leonor Espinosa, called Leo.
As home to the third largest airport in Latin America by passenger traffic, it’s no surprise that flying into Bogota is quite an easy option. Unlike many airports in major cities, El Dorado Airport is actually fairly close to the central areas, making for an easier trip to and from your accommodation.
If you’re already in Colombia, a bus to Bogota is a great option. Their safety has significantly improved over the years and the vehicles are usually equipped for a more luxurious ride. Bogota’s bus terminal is also rather centrally located, near Parque Metropolitano Simón Bolívar.
Bogota is often overlooked for other cities throughout Colombia, but as one of the largest cities in South America it’s no surprise that it has a myriad of activities to offer, including: